When difference divides you

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor. www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz

So you and your partner are different and it feels like a problem.

And maybe it is if your strategy is to convert your partner; if they're certain you're wrong; if you're confident you're right.  But actually, you convert your relationship rather than each other and being together becomes uneasy, uncomfortable, wounding and unfulfilling.

#9: difference

When it feels like you're on opposite sides of the divide you might wonder what hope you can find for your relationship.

Perhaps you no longer have anything in common. Perhaps agreeing on a shopping list seems impossible, let alone on finances or parenting your kids.

When you want to take a different path at every turn, what you've got is a pretty normal relationship, actually.  The challenge in a long-term relationship is not to figure out how to agree about everything. It's about how to accept that you're different, how to make space for both of you in the relationship. 

These questions might help you to explore what it would take for you to get more comfortable about the differences between you.


When you agree 

What do you appreciate about your partner when you are not disagreeing?

What are the topics you agree about?

What happens when you disagree?

What are the topics you clash over? Are the same issues coming up time after time?  Do you get at each other about any topic that comes to hand?

Have you always disagreed about these issues?  What effect does disagreeing have on your relationship?  Is the effect the same for both of you?

When did your differences start to have an impact on your relationship?

How important are the topics you fight about? Do you get as angry or as hurt or as upset when other people in your life disagree with you about these topics? Have you ever disagreed with someone about these issues in an amiable way?

If someone who likes both of you watched the two of you disagree how would they describe it? What would they tell you about how you act? What would they tell your partner?

Does winning the arguement help your relationship?

How important do you think it is for you and your partner to agree? Are there times when it's okay for you to disagree? Is it the way you disagree that matters?

How important is it to you to win the argument, or to show your partner that they're wrong, or that your idea is better? Would your partner be surprised by your answer? Are your actions consistent with your ideas about this?

How important is winning the argument to your partner? How do you know?

What is the effect on your relationship when one of you wins the argument?

Taking care of your relationship

What is the effect on your relationship when you let your partner know what you understand and appreciate about their position?

When you and your partner disagree, do you feel closer to your partner or more distant from them? Do you think they feel closer to you or more distant when you argue?

How close do you want the two of you to be? Is your partner aiming for a similar degree of closeness?

What could you do or say differently when you disagree that would encourage your partner to feel closer? What could your partner do differently during an argument that would encourage you to feel closer to them?

Which aspects of your partner's different ideas and values can you appreciate? How might you let them know? How might it affect your relationship if you did?


If you keep disagreeing the same way you've always done, nothing is likely to change. Exploring your differences in a different way can be part of building a new aspect to your relationship.

If you would like help to explore your differences CALL US on 0800 RELATE  0800 735 283 for an appointment.

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  • Mellow says
    Food for thought in this article!
    After the chase, and/or once the honeymoon is over, reality sets in....

    Got to be truthful, life is no bed of roses, believe otherwise can result in a bed of thorns ...... some are real pricks too

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